We Need To Talk About: Selection for Exeter

Dave Rennie has used 39 different players so far this season – 22 forwards and 17 backs. The Kiwi coach has to whittle that down to the 23 men he feels are best suited to downing Exter at Sandy Park in the opening round of this season’s Champions Cup. So which are the top 5 selectorial dilemmas for the Warriors this week?

The most favoured starting line-up so far this season has been:

15. Ruaridh Jackson (6 starts)
14. Tommy Seymour (3)
13. Nick Grigg (4)
12. Peter Horne (4 – including 2 at stand off)
11. Lee Jones (5)
10. Finn Russell (4)
9. Ali Price (4)

1. Jamie Bhatti (5)
2. George Turner (4)
3. Zander Fagerson (5)
4. Tim Swinson (5)
5. Scott Cummings (5)
6. Ryan Wilson (5 – including 1 at number 8)
7. Callum Gibbins (4)
8. Adam Ashe (5)

Which winger?

Glasgow’s wings have chipped in with 5 tries so far this season with Lee Jones, Leonardo Sarto and Tommy Seymour all on the scoresheet. This is an area of strength for the club right now – even with Rory Hughes, Lelia Masaga and Ratu Tagive injured Dave Rennie can call on Niko Matawalu to cover from the bench. As to the starters British and Irish Lion Tommy (1 try so far this season) is a certainty for the number 14 shirt which leaves Lee (3 tries) and Leo (2 tries and 2 assists) battling for the number 11 slot.

Inside outside

As the only outside centre left standing it might seem unthinkable that Nick Grigg won’t start at 13 against Exeter. That leaves the different attributes of Peter Horne (second playmaker) and Sam Johnson (direct runner) for inside centre. The cat amongst the pigeons option would be to link up Horne and Johnson outside Finn Russell, reuniting the triumvirate that played the final 20 minutes against the Cheetahs – one that puts 3 very good passers of the ball in play to maximise the opportunities of testing Exeter out wide.

Proppingup the scrum

Jamie Bhatti has started 5 out of 6 so far this season at loosehead prop. Saturday’s game will represent his European debut though. So might Dave Rennie prefer to go with the greater experience of Alex Allan? Given the Warriors’ setpiece has (at times) struggled this season Allan has one significant stat in his favour. Across the past 2 seasons he conceded penalties at a slower rate than any other Glasgow prop. Typically the Warriors’ big men averaged 1-2 penalties per 80 minutes. Allan only conceded 1 every 200 minutes. Whatever picture it is that he presents to the officials it’s clearly one that they like and one that might just reduce a perceived disadvantage for Glasgow.

Who’s alongside Swinson?

As the club’s top tackler and the man in the tight 5 with the most carries this season, Tim Swinson has continued his fine form from last season into 2016/17. ┬áThat means there is probably only one space left in the second row to be filled by Brian Alainu’uese, Scott Cummings or Jonny Gray. Big Brian would certainly add some bulk to the pack but in all likelihood it will be the exceptional work rates of either Cummings or Gray that will get the nod. Given the intensity of the atmosphere and test Glasgow are likely to face Jonny’s far greater European experience could well get him the nod on this occasion.

Back row balance

Callum Gibbins and Ryan Wilson are both definites to take on a combative Exeter breakaway trio. Skipper Ryan’s position (and role) will be defined by who Dave Rennie selects to round out the Glasgow back row. Adam Ashe has been a workhorse for the Glasgow pack so far this season, topping the carrying charts with 52 and making the 2nd highest number of tackles. The breakdown battle could be crucial though. With that in mind Rennie might look at bringing Rob Harley in. He is Glasgow’s breakdown specialist. An absolute nuisance for the opposition who will make their life as difficult as possible on their own ball and will shut down turnover opportunities when his own side are in possession.

On Top Of The Moon’s Predicted 23 for Saturday:

15. Ruaridh Jackson
14. Tommy Seymour
13. Nick Grigg
12. Peter Horne
11. Lee Jones
10. Finn Russell
9. Ali Price

1. Alex Allan
2. Fraser Brown / George Turner *
3. Zander Fagerson
4. Tim Swinson
5. Jonny Gray
6. Ryan Wilson (c)
7. Callum Gibbins
8. Adam Ashe

16. George Turner / Pat MacArthur *
17. Jamie Bhatti
18. D’arcy Rae
19. Scott Cummings
20. Robert Harley
21. Henry Pyrgos
22. Sam Johnson
23. Niko Matawalu

* Dependent on whether Fraser passes Return To Play protocols after a head knock against the Cheetahs.

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